Photo: Newsroom Diversity Lacking as Struggling Economy Causes Staff Cuts
It appears that as the U.S. economy continues its struggle, newsrooms are being forced to let people go. However, these newsrooms seem to be becoming less diverse.
According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ (ASNE)2011 census, for the third straight year, the number of minority journalists has dropped. Today, just 13 percent of those working in the newsroom are minorities, with the remaining 87 being white.
Frank Blethen of the Seattle Times attributed the dwindling number to the owners willing to cut back on diversity despite it being necessary to democracy.
“Pure and simple – it’s the obscene concentration of ownership coupled with a broken, dominant ownership model which doesn’t care about journalism or diversity, or any other communal values,” Blethen said. “The newspaper business model is very sound and can support journalism and diversity if freed from these financial mercenaries and the unsustainable debt they piled on newspapers. Even in the worst of the recession, the big chains who went through bankruptcy, or still might, were pulling down 14-20 percent cash flow margins — hardly a distressed business model.”
ASNE president, Milton Coleman, told Crosscut, “At a time when the U.S. Census shows that minorities are 46 percent of the U.S. population, newsrooms are going in the opposite direction. The deputy managing editor of the Washington Post added, “This is an accuracy and credibility issue for our newsrooms.”
Of the 13 percent of minorities working in the newsroom overall, about 11 percent of those are supervisors. Among the minority staffers, African American reporters make up about 50 percent, with Asian Americans making up the majority (42 percent) of the other half.
Blethen believes the drop is reversible but will take the enforcement of rules by the FCC to change the direction of the trend.
If the Federal Communications Commission got its act together and repealed cross-ownership, enforced broadcast license public service requirements, and enforced its female and minority ownership rules, we would have the foundation to save our independent press and encourage diversity.”